A couple founds their own community to help raise their children as a group

Max and Charlotte Knee-Zaska founded their own commune for a “slower pace of life”. (SWNS)

Charlotte Knee-Zaska, 30, mother of three children, has always dreamed of building a commune in the countryside, as their family home. Her ultimate goal was for her and her husband, a 32-year-old musician named Max, to create their own “sustainable community” and enjoy a “slower pace of life”.

In August 2017, she and Max finally took the plunge, moving from their home in Dublin to County Offaly in Ireland, where they invested in an acre of land. They had spent the past three years saving the £47,000 they needed to realize their vision.

Accompanied by their eldest daughter Iza, now aged five, the couple embarked on the construction of two houses – with the aim of inviting other families to join their community and learn to live together sustainably.

The couple spent two years renovating a chalet so that another family could join their commune.  (SWNS)

The couple spent two years renovating a chalet so that another family could join their commune. (SWNS)

They spent two years renovating a cottage already on the land and building an extension with its own living spaces so another family could join their unconventional settlement.

And in April 2021, they were able to welcome home their friends, James Smith, 32, a music producer, and Ffion Thomas, 31, a holistic therapist, and their one-year-old daughter, Connie.

The couple were joined by their friends, James and Ffion, and their children, to live in their community.  (SWNS)

The couple were joined by their friends, James and Ffion, and their children, to live in their community. (SWNS)

Now the two families live as a community – eating local or organic foods and hosting women’s retreats from their homes.

“We have chicken eggs and try to become more and more self-sufficient over time,” says Knee-Zaska.

Families have their own vegetable gardens, growing zucchini, kale, leeks, beets and squash. They eat as much of their home grown food as possible throughout the summer and use organic food from their local farmers.

Families have their own vegetable garden with zucchini, kale, leeks, beets and squash and lots of other foods.  (SWNS)

Families have their own vegetable garden with zucchini, kale, leeks, beets and squash and lots of other foods. (SWNS)

“I always wanted to have a real home because I moved around a lot when I was a kid,” explains Knee-Zaska.

“When we moved it was a little daunting at first because we had no heating and the garden was just rubble and mud. But slowly we built the garden and the houses so we could live in community with our friends.

“It worked really well,” says Charlotte. “We’re not on top of each other because we still have separate living spaces, but you also know you’re never alone.”

“All the adults often have morning coffee together and we help each other out with our kids.”

Knee-Zaska likes the slower pace of life.

“It’s great because I can have some peace and quiet while Ffion or James look after the kids. I also know that they can run around and play in the garden and that I don’t need to watch them,” she says.

Both families eat home-grown food and help each other raise their children.  (SWNS)

Both families eat home-grown food and help each other raise each other’s children. (SWNS)

Knee-Zaska set out to create community while living in the city, but struggled to bring people together to make it work.

And after hunting on cheap housing sites, she fell in love with land in Offaly, Ireland.

“It was a bit over our budget but I really liked it, so we went to see,” she says. “We fell in love with it as soon as we saw it.”

“It was a lot at first, as I was still traveling to Dublin for work so we could get money to fix our heating and stuff like that.”

“But we did the renovations as we started saving,” she explains.

While they were setting up the house, the couple welcomed their two other daughters, Eden, now three, and Thea, one.

Charlotte says she loves being able to spend so much time with her children.  (SWNS)

Charlotte says she loves being able to spend so much time with her children. (SWNS)

“After a few months I quit my job in Dublin and became a yoga teacher and worked part-time in social care,” she says.

“It meant I could be home with the kids six days a week.”

Now Knee-Zaska and Thomas have started hosting private retreats and women’s circles once a month in a teepee in the garden.

“We do breathwork and massage with them,” says Knee-Zaska.

Families adopt a slower pace of life after living in Dublin.  (SWNS)

Families adopt a slower pace of life after living in Dublin. (SWNS)

She hopes to expand her community if she is able to buy more land.

“It would be nice if we had more people to join us,” she says. “I would like to find a place a little closer to the sea.

“But it would also be difficult to leave here because I have an attachment to it now. It’s amazing to be able to walk around the garden and see the countryside. The environment is so calming and I like living in community.

Joan D. Boling